Christ Lutheran Church

Luther on our Gifts (Talents)

by Pastor Lehmann

Posted on June 01, 2015 3:38 AM

Dr. Martin Luther speaks of our gifts or talents (1 Peter 4:4 - "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms") in connection with 1 Peter 5:5 - "Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'":

God distributes His gifts among people according to His good pleasure. Some He graces with material gifts, such as health, strength, beauty, wealth, honor, power, etc.: others with spiritual ones, such as wisdom, an understanding of Holy Scripture, etc. He does all this that they may recognize that they have received these gifts from Him, may thank Him for them, and use them for the benefit of their neighbor. Here St. Peter teaches this when he says: "Be clothed with humility." It is an earnest and necessary teaching, for so things always go in this world: if someone has superior talents he boasts of them, becomes arrogant and proud. For instance, a person who is wealthy, noble, powerful, beautiful, or learned, eloquent, pious, does not bear in mind that these are gifts of God; I shall say nothing of the fact that he ought to thank God for them, much less that he ought to serve and help his neighbor with them. But he imagines that these gifts are part of himself, and he thinks highly of himself because of them. No one is good enough for him. In fact, other folk are rotten. So he uses his endowments only in order to despise and harm his neighbor, and he expects to be celebrated and adored to boot. There is no love and no humility but only contempt and arrogance. This is why such a man sins not only against the Second Table of the Law, against his neighbor, but also against the First Table, against God, whose grace and mercy he ought to proclaim and praise; for this is the reason why God gave him his gifts. ... Therefore the arrogance arising and growing from intellectual endowments is a diabolical vice. It is directly opposed to God's name and Word.

But, says St. Peter, it should not be so among you Christians. You should know that it is God's will and His first commandment that you, as one body in Christ and members one of another, have an ardent love and also be subject to one another, because you have the same faith, hopes, Baptism, spirit, and, in a word, the same blessings in Christ, in whom you are all one, without any distinction. If, however, one is graced with fine, great gifts before others, he should know that God gave him these talents in order to serve others with them that God may be praised by them through Jesus Christ. Therefore the more highly you are favored, the more you should humble yourself before the most insignificant. They [the lowly], on the other hand, let you teach, direct, improve, admonish, and rebuke them. They receive these services in all humility. So you join hands by a common humility and hold firmly and staunchly to it that it may remain intact and mutual in your relations and that anger, arrogance, disunity, and impatience may not sunder and separate it. But an earnest effort is indeed necessary to achieve this relation; for humility is not so easily acquired, nor can it be put on like a coat.

[1] Found in What Luther Says, p. 1336, Ewald M. Plass, ed. (Concordia, St. Louis; 1959).